A long weekend in Kota Kinabalu, this time not to hike the mountain but to see more orangutans and explore some islands.
Making the most of public holidays in Singapore is a must, there is so little time off compared to Europe so it is imperative to make every day off count!
I took off from Singapore with Malaysian airlines, with a stop over in KL; this was my first time flying with them and in the typical Malaysian style it was delayed and confusing. I told myself this would be “ the first and last time with them”….to realise only 5 minutes later that I have 4 more flights with them in October to go to Nepal! Good luck to me!
In total I have spent 3 full days in Kota Kinabalu.
DAY 1 MANUKAN ISLAND
I left the hotel super early as I wanted to avoid the crowd, being a public holiday also in Malaysia...I guess everybody had the same idea 😱. Jesselton Point Pier is the gateway point to reach all the islands in front of KK, here you can buy your ticket from one of the many companies that take tourists to the islands every day.
I have picked only one island to visit for the day (Manukan Island) but you can also purchase package for island hopping. I just wanted some relaxing time and some time to film with my drone, hence why I bought a return ticket to Manukan for around 30 MYR and the speedboat ride is around 10-15 minutes. Again in typical Malaysian style finding your boat was confusing and the process a little bit chaotic. I was told "on the there is a guy with an orange t shirt, he will take you with his boat"….every single person on the pier and waiting area was wearing either an orange top or an orange life vest 😂...oh well eventually I managed to find my boat.
Once in Manukan Island you have to pay an conservation fee of around MYR 10. The island is pretty small but with different areas where you can swim, snorkel or just relax on the beach.
The front beach is very crowded with tourists but as soon as you walk a little further away you can have a more relaxing experience and enjoy some calm. I had time to play with my DJI Spark drone and capture some footage of the island. Video below.
DAY 2 SANDAKAN
I started very early on the second day of my trip. I had a flight to Sandakan to visit Sepilok Orangutans rehabilitation centre. Usually the organised trips to visit this place from KK are extremely expensive, so to save money and avoid being in a group of 20+ tourists I have decided to go on my own. Getting to Sepilok is super easy. I have booked a return flight with MAS WINGS (part of Malaysian airlines but better!) and I took a taxi from Sandakan airport to the orangutans centre (it takes around 25 minutes from the airport at a cost of 40 MYR, possibly even cheaper on Uber). As I missed the morning slots to see the orangutans (feeding times are at 10AM or 3PM) I started the visit with the Sun Bears centre which was super nice and super interesting and also less crowded with people. The orangutans area opened again at 2 PM so I had time to buy some lunch at the canteen before starting the visit. Although the centre is extremely important to safeguard these endangered animals the experience you have with them is not the same as seeing them free in their habitat. One week before I was in Sumatra and managed to see numerous Orangutans in Bukit Lawing (you can read more about it here) but here in Sepilok I was surrounded with 50 other noisy tourists waiting to see couple of Orangutans eating. There is an orangutang nursery with all the babies and this was super cute to see. I don’t regret visiting Sepilok but it is a different experience from the one I had in Sumatra. I still recommend visiting Sepilok as this is a way to help the centre to stay open and to help more endangered animals.
DAY 3 KOTA KINABALU
The last day I spent it in KK visiting the city. There are some cool street art pieces around the city so totally worth a visit. I planned a full day but a half day is enough to see everything.